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This article discusses "trash," a commonly used term for popular culture in Quiz Bowl. For information regarding Testing Recall About Strange Happenings, the organization also known as TRASH, see TRASH.

Trash is the common name for popular culture (sports, movies, TV, video games, non-classical music, comic books, etc) in quizbowl. Though probably a derogatory term when it was first coined, it has been embraced by the most vocal supporters of popular culture content in quizbowl, and the term no longer contains any value judgment.

In mainstream academic quizbowl tournaments, trash usually takes up between 0 and 5 percent of the distribution. There are no trash questions at all at ACF Nationals, the PACE NSC , or NASAT , though ACF Fall and most high-school level regular-season events including HSAPQ Tournament Sets have 1 to 2 trash questions per round.

NAQT has somewhat more trash (6.6% in their high school sets when pop culture and sports are treated as a unit [1]). In small amounts, trash questions can help keep rounds lively and increase retention of new players, but a preponderance of trash in an otherwise-academic tournament is bad.

Trash tournaments

Trash tournaments are tournaments involving questions exclusively on trash.

Matt Weiner once referred to the trash circuit as a "cancerous growth" that has a "chilling effect" on academic tournaments because of the way that teams often became entirely devoted to trash to the exclusion of playing academic tournaments. [2] This tendency can be seen in the fact that clubs like Villanova and Boston College played exclusively in trash tournaments for many years in the late 2000s. This phenomenon of trash capture has become markedly less pronounced since the demise of in-season trash tournament.

The number of trash tournaments has declined significantly since the late 2000s, while participation at academic events has remained constant or increased. Since the end of the 2010-2011 academic year, there have been only four full-length, standalone trash tournaments held, all of which took place in the summer.

The decline in the popularity of trash can mostly be explained by the fact that trash was invented and played by a pre-existing social group of 1990s quizbowlers, and once that group moved on to other things in life, the true level of interest in trash at about one tournament every six months has emerged.

The Trash Paradox

Teams and players who are extremely enthusiastic about playing trash to the exclusion of playing academic questions are, generally, not very good at trash.

Historical Trash Tournaments